Quit Your Diet: A Sustainable Approach to Lasting Results
Less than an hour after waving goodbye to 2015 and ringing in the New Year, the search term “weight watchers” saw its highest number of views out of any other day during the past year, according to Google Trends. If you’re betting your bottom dollar as to what’s on people’s minds this time of year, it’s safe to say that shedding pounds tops the list.
“Diet,” “exercise,” and “weight loss” saw equal spikes in traffic, with popular related searches including:
- 21-Day Fix
- Paleo diet
- Apple cider vinegar
- Melissa McCarthy weight loss
So how is your New Year’s diet going?
Tracking your habits will help you learn about your body’s real needs.
One Hopeful Headline
During my midnight research on New Year’s diet trends, I came across a title that caught my eye:
The article offers unconventional wisdom and claims that to lose weight, you should avoid going on a diet altogether. Wait, what? It may sound absurd to forgo trying to lose weight when that is your goal, but the following statistics from the article suggest otherwise:
- While most people can lose about 5 to 10 percent of their starting weight on any given diet, they actually end up gaining more weight than what they originally lost.
- Research from the University of Scranton suggests that one-third of people who ring in the New Year with resolutions throw in the towel by February, and a quarter of resolvers don't even make it a full week.
- A study from the International Journal of Obesity of more than 2,000 sets of twins found that twins who intentionally tried to lose weight just one time in their lives were about two-to-three times more likely to become overweight in the future, compared to their genetically identical, non-dieting counterparts. Plus, the more often one twin tried to lose weight, the greater his or her risk of subsequent weight gain.
What can we conclude from this research? That success boils down to mindset.
Investing in Your Health Takes Time
Setting an end date for achieving your goals is like giving yourself a way out before you even begin. When we set time restraints around a goal, we already know that our weight loss effort is not sustainable. After a period of concentrated restriction, your body and mind will crave old habits. It’s easy to retreat back to square one, or even worse, stay stuck in that diet mentality.
This year, instead of becoming another statistic for a 2017 “Failed New Year’s Resolutions” article, why not join a small movement in reversing history for chronic dieters everywhere? I’m talking about the non-diet mentality: a sustainable approach to weight loss, or any other nutrition or fitness goal you may have.
7 Steps To Strengthen Your Non-Diet Mentality
1. Throw Out The Scale
For the next thirty days, do not weigh yourself, measure yourself, or calculate your food or calorie burn. I am serious. Focus less on numbers and more on fuel. Establish a healthy workout routine that makes you come alive. Let your body find homeostasis. Reward yourself by shopping for a killer pair of jeans that make you look and feel like a million bucks.
2. Log Your Eating Habits
Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. To create a sustainable eating and exercise lifestyle, you must understand what your body wants and needs for fuel.
Try this simple, mindful food logging exercise for the next seven days to see what you learn about your body’s real needs:
Log your daily meals, including what you ate, the time you ate it, and the level of hunger or fullness you experienced on a scale of 1-10 (before and after the meal). Also note any feelings you experienced around mealtime, such as a headache, sleepiness, energy, lethargy, or constipation.
- At the end of seven days, review your food log.
- Note any themes. Maybe you get headaches every day at 3:00 PM or extreme dips in energy levels.
- Write out your top goals.
- Pick one thing to change that will move you closer to your goal, like drinking the adequate amount of water each day for a week. Start small.
Intuitive eating and exercise can be won back. Your mindful eating log will uncover places for improvement in your diet.
3. Chew Your Food
No matter how strictly you adhere to a clean diet, if you don’t digest your food well, you will struggle to meet your goals. Digestive problems can lead to leaky gut, hormonal imbalances, and impaired cortisol levels. Ultimately, these conditions impact your body’s ability to find its healthy weight.
Improving your digestion is as simple as chewing your food. Your food should be chewed so much before you swallow it that you wouldn’t recognize it in its original form.
What incremental changes have you made today to support your long-term nutrition goals?
4. Plan Ahead
Meal planning and prep ensure that you have plenty of healthy ammunition for the week ahead. Having simple go-to recipes in your arsenal can take the stress out of cooking when hunger strikes.
"Life happens, and old habits die hard. Aim to make healthy choices that build into your future success."
Set aside a few hours each week for food prep, and keep it simple. Think meat, veggies, and healthy fats. Don’t get overwhelmed trying to make each meal gourmet. Add flavor by using spices and healthy condiments, like mustard or sauerkraut.
When you are hungry and need food right away, keep a well-stocked kitchen with foods such as:
- Canned tuna (and mayo or Dijon mustard for tuna salad)
- Frozen chicken/turkey sausage patties (Applegate Farms is a good brand)
- Raw nuts/seeds, almond butter, and sunflower seed butter
- Rotisserie chicken
- Hardboiled eggs
- Beef/turkey jerky
- Frozen veggies (brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, etc.)
- Whole fruits (apples, oranges, pears)
- Frozen berries
- Homemade chicken broth/bone broth
- Frozen turkey
- Sweet potatoes (can cook in microwave in 5-7 minutes)
5. Embrace Healthy Fats
Butter makes everything better, as does ghee, coconut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil, organic animal meats, egg yolks, and other healthy fats. Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence proving a link between saturated fat and heart disease. In addition, butter and coconut-based fats contain short- and medium-chain fats, which are metabolized differently from other fats, leading to improved satiety and enhanced fat burning.
6. Ask: “WWHMD”?
When it comes to making lasting change in your mind and body, ask this question:
“What would healthy me do?”
What decisions would you make? How might your attitude toward food change? Make a list of desired changes and remember: as you think, so you become.
7. Find Balance
Few diet programs address the whole picture. A holistic approach is vital to sustainable wellbeing. Factors like sleep, outside activities, work, and stress management are just as important as your nutrition and significantly affect your body’s homeostasis.
The key for creating balance is to take baby steps. For example, if your goal is to sleep 7-9 hours per night but you are only sleeping 5-6 hours most nights right now, aim to increase that amount by 30-60 minutes over two weeks. If you are successful, go ahead and add another 30-60 minutes. Be patient and make realistic and obtainable steps.
Commit to Lifelong Change
Ultimately, to create lasting change and habits, the choices you make for your own health need to be things that you can do every day for the rest of your life. Eating frozen diet meals, obsessing over cardio, and tracking every single morsel you put in your mouth on My Fitness Pal are not sustainable habits.
Remember, perfection does not exist – nor is it expected. Life happens, and old habits die hard. Aim to make healthy choices that build into your future success. Toss out the all-or-nothing mentality and have grace with yourself when small fires ignite. Acknowledge speed bumps, and move on. A fresh re-start button awaits each and every time. And don’t forget to breathe.
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- Why Dieting Is Harmful to Your Health
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- The 2 Essential Principles of Lifelong Motivation
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